The Election Commission announced the dates for a five-phase Assembly elections in Bihar and set the stage for battle between NDA vs ALL. Like other regions Seemanchal comprising of 24 Assembly seats will be a crucial factor in finalising who will ascend the throne in Bihar.
From Pothia Block of Kishanganj to Amdabad Block of Katihar and Amour Block of Purnia, everyone has become expert on census statistics because 2011 census reports in media have generated once again burning issue of Hindu-Muslim population. Muslim population in this decade has grown 24.6 per cent compared to Hindu population by 16.8 per cent. It is said, the fertility rate is falling faster in Muslims than in Hindus but Muslim population has increased from 13.4 per cent in 2001 to 14.2 per cent in 2011. Intellectuals are facing problem to solve this conundrum but in Seemanchal, everyone is very clear on it. They say, it is because of Bangladeshi influx otherwise how with falling fertility rate, Muslims got 24.6 per cent decadal population growth. It is certainly seen at the ground, there are villages in Kishanganj and Purnia where Hindus are leaving their home and land, and settling down in Hindu-dominated towns outside. As a result, half of this region is full of Bangladeshi refugees.
Seemanchal comprises the eastern districts of poll bound Bihar, Kishanganj, Araria, Purnia, and Katihar. This region belongs to complete polarisation and many Hindu local leaders are taking this election to solve the national problem. So, they do not care about individual candidates. Obviously, the influx of Bangladeshi Muslims, Nitish Kumar’s efforts to open the branch of Aligarh Muslim University in Kishanganj and special scholarship to Muslim students are generating the sympathy wave for BJP because majority of Hindus are taking all steps taken by Nitish Kumar or supported by RJD and Congress as anti-Hindu. There is other side of the coin also. There is a complete disintegration of alliance between JD (U), RJD and Congress. RJD leader, Md Taslimuddin and NCP Katihar MP, Tariq Anwar have delivered the speeches which indicate their alliance at least in this region. NCP cannot be satisfied with three seats only and Taslimuddin started threatening to go separate way. Taslimuddin forecasts supports of Muslims for BJP in this region and he said in Delhi, “The BJP stands a good chance in some Seemanchal seats like Amur and Baisi and might get some Muslim votes as well.”
In this region, there are 24 Assembly constituencies and 4 Parliamentary constituencies out of which there are two Muslim MPs. In 2010 Assembly election, BJP won 10 seats and JD (U) got 4 seats. RJD in alliance with LJP got only 1 seat but LJP 2 seats and Congress 2 seats. In 2014 Lok Sabha election, BJP in alliance with LJP and RLSP got good level of vote share compared to all other Parties but it could not materialise in seats. Out of all the 24 Assembly segments, BJP was ahead only in two segments, Forbesganj and Katihar. It only managed Araria Lok Sabha seat by Pradeep Kumar Singh against Taslimuddin. The leaders like Nikhil Kumar Choudhary and Uday Singh did not win the election under Modi wave. This fact indicates something very alarming for BJP. The polarisation is always two ways and if a party does not translate its support into votes, it cannot get anything out of polarisation. So, in this Assembly election too, the supports for BJP is implacable but it depends on BJP party workers and leaders how to translate it into votes. Certainly, this year success of BJP will give the relief to at least people of those villages where Bangladeshi people are capturing everything and pushing locals out of their own place.
In Seemanchal, there is almost 40 per cent Muslim population, Kishanganj district has 69 per cent Muslim population. Based on this level of Muslim population, all non-NDA parties are very vocal here but they do not know how fast they are losing their support among Hindus. Lalu-Nitish alliance was thinking to get undivided Muslim votes but now, Asaduddin Owaisi of AIMIM is entering into the scene and he seems very promising here because Muslims are fully disenchanted with Lalu-Nitish. It is because of the fact that they did not see substantive development in their areas in last 20 years of either Lalu or Nitish. Therefore, some Muslims in all four districts are supporting BJP which is also supported by Taslimuddin statement. Earlier this region had shown supports to BJP leader, Shahnawaz Hussain but gradually they are becoming ready to support BJP Hindu candidates, which is only because of the feeling of taking revenge from Lalu-Nitish. However, in the areas where Bangladeshi Muslims have entered and made their bastion, BJP will have to depend only on Hindu votes.
The challenges for BJP before October 12 are manifold in terms of encountering the social engineering of RJD-JD (U)-Congress. Among Hindus, this Mahagadhbandhan has supports of Yadav, Kurmi and some Brahmins. So, in this region, BJP has to face the caste coalition of Yadav-Kurmi-Brahmin that has backbone of Muslim supports. There is a polarisation but certainly there is sub-polarisation among Hindus.
Naveen Kumar (The writer is senior political anlalyst)